Byrne's Brass Band Burns Down The House

St. Vincent and David Byrne
St. Vincent flanked by David Byrne and the band at the Orpheum Sunday. (Photo by Michael Zonenashvili)

David Byrne’s horn-heavy collaboration with the artist currently known as St. Vincent made even more sense in their sensational Sunday night Orpheum concert than it does on “Love This Giant,” their fascinating new CD. If, as I said in the joint review of that CD and Bob Dylan’s “Tempest,” the quirkiness of “Love This Giant” feels like a cerebral affair, the live collaboration rocks with the best of Byrne’s past shows — which is saying something, since each new tour has brought a different set of delights.

Like the last road show — featuring his work with Brian Eno — this one is highly choreographed and intensely dramatic. In fact, the “Love This Giant” tour is more theatrical than much of the recent work in Boston-area theaters, including “The Kite Runner” and “Paris Commune” in terms of lighting, movement — even story arc and character development.

Not that there’s really a story here, though St. Vincent — the stage name of Annie Clark — cuts something of a “Metropolis”-like figure, with robotic movements that can seem like her circuits have gone haywire, particularly during her blazing solos that looked like the guitar was playing her.

Meanwhile, the horns would march themselves into various formations and, joined by Byrne, would close in on Clark menacingly during her solos or, at other times, form a joyful line dance that underscored the more upbeat songs, particularly of Byrne’s. He, of course, is no stranger to robotic “Psycho Killer” movements himself, but even though he seemed to be the group leader in strange onstage rituals, there was nothing lethal in the air.

With his shock of white hair and a bit of added poundage he seemed to be the elder statesman who’s nevertheless youthful enough to be having the time of his life sharing the stage with younger artists like St. Vincent (who called him her prom date) and finding new rhythms for his anthropological observations of the species’ speciousness. They both added their own songs — St. Vincent her “Cruel” hit and Byrne a half-dozen songs or so from his Talking Heads and solo career. And when he ended the night on the perfect note of “Road to Nowhere,” the crowd would have happily followed him, St. Vincent and the band on a journey to anywhere.

This program aired on September 25, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

Headshot of Ed Siegel

Ed Siegel Critic-At-Large
Ed Siegel is critic-at-large for WBUR.



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